Saturday, 17th August 2013 – Warner Bros Studio Tour: The Making of Harry Potter…
The brochure said “secrets will be revealed“, this was incredibly fitting as we drove up to the Warner Bros Studios for The Harry Potter Tour last week with the children in the back completely oblivious to our destination. As we got closer and the brown tourist attraction signs began to get more frequent I noticed E watching them with flicker in his eye wondering if he dared hope. When he spotted the buildings he still wasn’t entirely sure, asking “Mummy do you see, what’s that over there?” Daddy turned into the entrance and the screams of delight and celebration were just the beginning of a magical day!
Part of the reason I had kept it a secret was because I wasn’t sure I’d be able to manage their over-excitement in the lead up whilst trying to contain my own! We all literally bounced out the car and I could already feel myself having to suppress excited squeals a feeling that was due to last for the duration of the afternoon.
You MUST book in advance for the Studio Tour and can not just show up on the day. Our tour was booked for 12.30pm and we were told to arrive 20mins before – this is absolutely necessary. We were there in plenty of time (I said I was excited) so had plenty of time to have a Starbuck’s get the children’s passports and have a flick through the guide before joining the queue. You’re told to join the queue 15mins before your tour starts as this is how long the wait is but it looks worse than it is and moves quickly. In fact, so quickly that we had to hold everyone up as we peered into the cupboard under the stairs. The rest of our waiting time was filled with the children debating whether it not it’d be quite cosy to sleep under the stairs and if we could create a space under ours.
You are then held in a room displaying posters of Harry Potter from around the world and where one of the ‘interractors’ (or tour guides) gives you a brief run down of the tour’s format. Everyone gathers round to listen to him/her speak but this is the time to shuffle away into the back left corner to position yourself perfectly for the next bit! For once not hindered by a buggy we rather rudely cut in front of everyone to get into this premium position at the front of the cinema where the show’s stars welcome you and introduce the magic makers behind the scenes.
The Great Hall is the last bit of the guided tour and walking into it is just as awesome as you’d expect, even without the enchanted ceiling! The guide points out many of the articles of interest in the hall and as part of the Summer Spelltacular demonstrates one of the ways Robbie Coltrane was turned into a giant – with an umbrella. To keep tours moving through, time in the Hall is limited so don’t forget to peek at the beautiful house point counter with it’s detailed design to barely appear in a scene and the graffiti that the student’s were encouraged to carve into the tables.
After the hall you are free to wander and take things in at your own leisure; I think they estimate the tour to take about 3 hours but we were there much longer! The children were the perfect age (7&9) as well as being huge fans of the books and films as they took it all in, just as mesmerised by each tiny detail as we were. E enjoyed trying to think up abstract questions in the hope of catching out an ‘interractor’ incredibly there’s not much they can’t tell you; talk to them and ask lots of questions and you’ll learn even more amazing facts.
The children were given passports which they stamp at a number of points throughout the tour whilst hunting for golden snitches – they really enjoyed this and created a lovely momento to take home. There are literally thousands of props to look at and almost every one is individually created and crafted by hand without a single detail being missed! I was especially taken by the real chocolate cake from the ball in The Goblet of Fire, Madam spotted the invisibility cloak hanging in the Gryffindor Common Room, E loved the locking mechanisms for Gringotts vault and Ant learnt that one of the most expensive props was the telescope in Dumbledore’s Office which only makes up part of the background.
As part of the Summer Spells feature we were let into even more secrets than are usually shared. The children were taught how to duel by the guides assisted by on screen wand combat choreographer (yes that is a title). Ant and I got to look into The Mirror of Erised, what do you think our heart’s deepest desires were.?
Then we took to the Green Screens to fly in the magic car and ride broomsticks; did you know that some invisibility cloaks had a green lining so when put over the actor in front of the screen they really were invisible.
The backlot houses some large parts of the exterior sets including, Hagrid’s bike, Privet Drive, Hogwart’s Bridge, The Knight Bus and The Potter’s House and the children also got to control the moving chess pieces from the first film. There is a small refreshments stand and one selling Butter Beer although I suggest taking sandwiches because there was a long queue for both. We tried the Butter Beer which just about as sweet as you’d imagine, even the children struggled to finish it – luckily hubby didn’t!
Afterwards came the creatures, make-up and prosthetics department which was the only point at which I felt a little rushed by the children who had spotted Aragog and a Dragon at the other end of the room. Strangely Madam couldn’t see the connection between her desire to be a make-up artist and my youthful dream of being a prosthetic’s artist.
It’s easy to forget you’ve not turned a corner into a real side street as you enter Diagon Alley where every shop window is detailed with tiny signs and produce. I am as I was on the day fast running out of ‘wow words’ at just the where you are faced with the model of Hogwart’s castle. It’s quiet around it as everyone studies the accurate detailing of each corner, tower and balcony in speechless wonder.
The detail in the entire film, sets, props and tours is mimicked in the quality of merchandise in the gift shop and even with hubby to escort we didn’t escape entirely unharmed. In fact it’s only lucky they were sold out of replicas of Lucius Malfoy’s wand and cane or hubby himself may have left with a magically lighter wallet.
As corny and cliche as it sounds the only way to describe the experience is magical. Knowing the film’s secrets doesn’t for a minute spoil their magic for me, knowing a little of the work done behind the scenes only adds to their appeal.
The Summer Spelltacular is taking place until the 2nd September to be replaced on the 6th with a 3 week Back to School special where visitors will experience set design and storyboarding workshops and be get the opportunity to create their own. Tickets for the tour cost £29 for adults, £21.50 for children and £85 for a family of four and can be booked at www.wbstudiotour.co.uk
So I bring you the very secret special edition of The Saturday Show…
~ We were invited to experience the tour all magical memories are our own ~